Most everyone can enjoy a trip to the farm, especially with an enthusiastic buddy by your side! Earlier this fall, Mount Madonna School (MMS) preschool, kindergarten (Pre/K) and second grade students enjoyed a special morning together learning about organic agriculture at Live Earth Farm, a busy, working farm in the heart of the Pajaro Valley.
Guided by docent farmers, the students explored barns, fields, row crops and orchards. They heard about the difference between fruits and vegetables, seasonal crops and how farmers sow, nurture and water the plants depending on their needs. Students learned about manure and were able to meet the animals that supply the farm. They were also introduced to milk production and grazing benefits on the farm.
The students enjoyed visiting the nursey greenhouses, and the chance to re-pot baby plant sprouts. During their explorations they were also able to pick lemons and taste some sweet strawberries.
“Most all children love digging in the dirt, and they really liked roughing the roots and tucking in their baby artichokes,” said Leach. “Big buddies helped the little ones as they shared stories of planting gardens at school. Later, as they sat together near some rosemary bushes, the students watched busy honeybees pollinating the flowers. The older children really felt a sense of caring as they held their little buddies in their laps, being sure to keep them at a safe distance from the bees. Later, second graders picked fruit to share with their little friends and helped them to describe the flavor, feel and smells of their delicious treats.”
MMS Preschool/Kindergarten Director Hema Walker said teachers connect the farm adventure with the Pre/K curriculum through reading stories about farms and where food comes from, reflecting about our farm experience in our drawing journals, caring for their own class garden, understanding the cycles of nature by spending plenty of time exploring the outdoors and making that learning visible by creating original life cycle and identification books.
Every year MMS second graders study “People Who Make a Difference” as a social studies standard, and go to the Santa Cruz County Fair for Educational Day in September to see the prize farm animals, fruits, flowers and vegetables.
“We do a unit of study about ‘Farming and Farmers Then and Now’ and learn about farming practices from early humans through present day,” explained Leach. “Students compare and contrast how farming practices and equipment have changed since the early days. They learn about farming heroes such as John Deer, George Washington Carver, Cesar Chavez and Luther Burbank. Students read books on the subject, including fiction, non-fiction and poetry. They look at pictures of old and new farming equipment, as well as seeing actual machinery at the fair.”
Second graders discuss and write about their experience at the fair and make connections to what they saw and what they have been learning in class. In science, second graders study life cycles and spend time in the Children’s Garden, learning farming techniques and growing food to share at MMS open houses.
One of MMS elementary science labs, Garden Enhanced Nutrition Education, focuses on the nutrition and health benefits of organic practices and teaches students about farm-to-table healthy eating. They celebrate Apple Day with their Pre/K buddies and have Pumpkin Day in the garden. Both days include learning about science, nutrition and farming.
Back on the farm, students walk hand-in-hand together along dirt paths, and older students helped the younger ones to climb up on fence rails for a better view of the cow, ponies and goats. Second graders caught roaming chickens and held them so their little buddies could feel the soft feathers of the gentle birds. Second grade students have been learning to be big buddies – hiking, baking, doing art projects, listening to stories and playing with their little buddies – since shortly after school began.
“At the end of visit to the farm, the big buddies helped press apples and played kindly with their little buddies on the play structure and see saw. We teachers felt proud to see the big buddies interacting mindfully and caring carefully for their little buddies as they listened, explored and learned,” said Leach.
“Our preschool and kindergarten students truly delighted in their visit to the farm with their second grade buddies and learning about fall’s abundance and the harvest,” commented teacher Prema Gammons. “On campus, our youngest students appreciate the range of activities they do with their older friends, and this off-campus adventure was an additional, wonderful opportunity to explore a new environment while learning about the fun – and work – of running a farm.”
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Nestled among the redwoods on 355 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a community of learners dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believe a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville.